Covid 19 Delta outbreak: ‘Alarming’ Māori statistic prompts health expert to call for return to level 4

Originally published by Māori Television

Health research analyst Dr Rawiri Taonui says it’s been alarming to learn that Māori accounted for 5.7 per cent of all cases in the outbreak at the start of September and that, in the previous 12 days, Māori accounted for 50 per cent of all new cases.

“I think really the only way we’re going to halt the current surge is if Auckland goes back to level 4, and the rest of the North Island goes to level 3. The situation that’s unfolding, it is that concerning,” Taonui said.

Taonui believes level 3 restrictions in Auckland are too relaxed and, he says, “it’s a level 3 that is facilitating the spread of Delta”.

“I think the thing to remember is that level 4 in Auckland, the five weeks, actually went quite well. From an average of 66 cases per day in the second week. In the last week of level 4, the average rate of cases went down to 16.”

Leadership required

Māori vaccination rates are lifting faster than other ethnicities in the country, mainly due to the “heroic efforts” of Māori health providers, according to Taonui, but there is still a significant gap to close.

“Highest Māori cases – we’re not hearing that story in the daily standup briefings and we need the politicians to stop using gangs as a political football and show some unified leadership,” he said.

“We need to see those Māori MPs speaking our language, both English and Te Reo, at the daily briefings and telling the story of why we need to get the vaccinations.”

'Very, very exposed'

The Government’s Covid strategy is operating “from a base of vaccination that’s far too low”, Taonui said.

The United States and UK were following the same strategy as Aotearoa, with vaccination rates of barely 50 per cent, and the two countries reported a million new cases last week, he noted.

Taonui believes Aotearoa should turn to other countries for inspiration, such as Denmark and Norway, which are reopening their borders due to significantly higher vaccination rates.

“They are sitting at 85 and 88 per cent fully vaccinated. We’re doing it from a very low base, and an even lower base for Māori, which leaves us very, very exposed.”

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